PAX South Hands-On: Sundered – Everything And The Kitchen Sink

by Robert Workman

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A lot of developers like to try their hand at popular styles of games, just to see if they could pull off a similar success that another team had with it. For instance, at PAX South this weekend, we saw games like Brawlout trying their own spin on Super Smash Bros., with surprisingly resounding success. 

But the “Metroidvania” theme is always a good one to try, as it enables you to explore a world while still staying in a side-scrolling design frame of mind. Many games have done this pretty well, and the latest from Thunder Lotus Games, Sundered, is definitely on the same route.

Though we didn’t get too much of the gist with the storyline thus far, we do know that you’re some kind of warrior making his way through a hellish world, with all sorts of monsters coming at you from pretty much every direction. It’s your job to explore this world, defeat the monsters, and, hopefully, survive. Although that’s a bit of a long shot, but once you do lose a life, you’ll go back to the hub where you started and have to go through it again.

That may sound a bit rough for certain players that require safe checkpoints at every turn, but Sundered makes up for it in a number of ways. First, the beautiful hand-drawn art, which we’ve also seen in Thunder Lotus’ previously released Jotun, is absolutely wonderful. Watching your character hack their way through the baddies is really cool, and even when he’s dragged away to an underworld upon his death, you can see him struggling and trying to get out of it defiantly – though with very little luck. 

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Secondly, the world itself is gorgeous, if dark. While it resembles a hellish nightmare of sorts, they’re wonderfully colored, and it’s pretty much wide open to do some exploring. Plus, the levels are automatically regenerated with each turn, which adds an unpredictability factor to the game. Some rooms are still in place, the developer explained, but the structure around them – and the enemies that come flying in – change pretty much every time.

Also, I love the combat in Sundered. It’s a bit difficult when you’re overrun, but the controls with your sword are very responsive, enabling you to quickly zip out of harm’s way and then counterattack as you need to. You’ll need these skills as well, as the boss fights in the game can be quite overwhelming, based on what we’ve seen thus far.

There’s a great upgrade system here as well, which allows you to strengthen up your character and add new moves as you go along. And the more you unlock, the more perks that open up, so it pays to actually find upgrades that make a difference to your character. Choose wisely, though – monsters are sure to pummel you if you don’t put them to proper use.

Sundered is very challenging thus far, almost on the level of Dark Souls in a way. But Thunder Lotus has proven thus far that it’s definitely doing some strong work with its entry in the “Metroidvania” fold, and the finished game should be quite something.

Get ready to visit this underworld, as Sundered will release for PlayStation 4 and PC later this year.

By Robert Workman

Robert Workman has spent years working in the video game industry, for sites like Shacknews, AOL GameDaily and Marooners Rock. He's also very skilled in contributing to podcasts and video broadcasts, and can pretty much out-game you under the table. Oh, and just go ahead and ask him about glorious craft beers. Go on, ask him.